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Today is World Tuberculosis (TB) Day. Every year ChildFund Australia marks the occasion by raising awareness about one of the world’s deadliest infectious diseases. TB has devastating health, social and economic consequences for people around the world – but particularly for the world’s most vulnerable children and young people.

Every day around the world, 4,100 people die from TB and one in 10 people with it is a child.In Papua New Guinea, the rate of infection is one of the highest in the world.

Olve Ha, Head of Health Program in ChildFund Papua New Guinea

We caught up with Olive Oa (pictured left) ChildFund Papua New Guinea Health Program Manager, to hear how they are continuing to support children and young people to access vital health services to diagnose and treat TB.

What is the current TB situation in PNG?

Papua New Guinea experiences extremely high rates of TB across the country, particularly when compared to the rest of the world. This is largely due to lack of access to health care and low rates of immunisation.

In the Central Province, TB is still very common in the communities and health centres we work in. Here, there are 15 health centres that diagnose and support patients who test positive for TB. All 15 health centres have at least one staff trained to care for and manage TB patients. ChildFund works in six health facilities in the surrounding area.

What is CFPNG doing to address these issues?

We set up a  genetic testing machine to test for Tuberculosis in Bereina, Kwikila, and Porebada. In Bereina, the testing machines run on solar power.

We have trained 60 TB Treatment supporters across the six communities to support patients who have been diagnosed with TB and provide them with the right treatment. After an individual is diagnosed with TB, they are sent home and their closest treatment centre is notified so they can continue to access care and medication.

Many of those working at the treatment centre are trained community health volunteers.

What progress has been made since starting these activities?

We have continued to ensure that these testing centres are operational, even during the COVID-19 pandemic. At the Bereina Health Centre, we set up a standby generator that can provide electricity when solar power isn’t available. We are also planning for a refresher training for the Kairuku District Health workers to provide more information about treating TB.

What challenges is CFPNG facing in treating TB?

In my experience, there are several major challenges that we face. Firstly, many of these patients come from very remote village in the communities we work in. The roads are so bad that cars cannot access them for weeks at a time. Also, people with suspected TB often wait until they are very sick before they reach out for help meaning their treatment is delayed. Finally, although the community health volunteers provide good support, they are often under-resourced as we don’t have enough funds to support this work.

What is ChildFund doing next to support individuals with TB in PNG?

We need to improve the capacity of health workers at every health centre. Right now, 80% of the health work force is community health workers. All health facilities undertaking TB work should be supported with the right training, communication and solar power that can provide basic microscopy testing, lighting, and electricity.

World Tuberculosis Day is held annually on 24 of March to raise awareness and educate the public about the global impact of tuberculosis (TB). TB causes devastating health, social and economic consequences around the world, especially in countries like Papua New Guinea. 

Haven’t heard of World Tuberculosis Day? Here’s our guide to what World TB Day is all about, and how you can educate yourself and help raise awareness about this life-threatening infectious disease.

Why do we celebrate World Tuberculosis Day?

March 24 is the anniversary of the day scientist Dr Robert Koch, discovered the cause of TB, the TB bacillus in 1882. This discovery was groundbreaking and led to the diagnosis and successful treatment of the disease. 

A century later, the United Nations declared that this date would be commemorated as World Tuberculosis Day, to raise awareness and educate the public about the impact of tuberculosis.

What is tuberculosis (TB)?

TB is an infectious disease that attacks the lungs, however, it can also affect other parts of the body, such as the brain, kidneys or spine. It is highly contagious and spreads from person to person through the air via coughs, sneezes, and when the bacteria is released into the air during conversation.

According to the World Health Organisation, a total of 1.5 million people died from TB in 2020 and it is one of the top ten causes of death around the world. Over 95% of cases and deaths occur in developing countries. The WHO also stated that worldwide, TB is the 13th leading cause of death and the second leading infectious killer after COVID-19 (above HIV/AIDS).

Although a preventable and curable disease, TB is a major cause of illness and death for children in developing countries, where providing treatment is challenging, particularly in remote communities. 

What is the theme for World Tuberculosis Day 2022?

The theme for 2022’s World TB Day is Invest to End TB. Save Lives. This theme raises awareness of the urgent need to invest resources to fight TB and ultimately ramp up the efforts to eliminate the disease.

How you can make an impact on World Tuberculosis Day 2022

If you would like to get involved and make a difference this World TB Day, here are some ideas to get you started: 

1. Spread awareness and start a conversation on social media

To spread awareness about World Tuberculosis Day, one of the best ways is to share relevant information on your Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn accounts. 

We suggest sharing statistics on TB, tuberculosis stories, educational resources or other communication materials that can help to raise awareness of this global disease. You can use the hashtags #WorldTBDay and #ItsTimeToEndTB to spark a conversation. 

2. Educate yourself about tuberculosis

World Tuberculosis Day is the perfect time to learn more about the impact of TB around the world. Visit the official World Tuberculosis Day 2022 page to learn more about the event. There are also a number of resources, stories and videos you can watch on the internet to learn more about TB and its impact.

3. Donate to provide access to treatment

If you want to make a difference and save a child in need, donate to programs that support children living in rural areas of developing countries. You can help them access adequate healthcare and prevent further TB transmissions.

Through ChildFund Australia you can donate a Handwashing Station to a community in need, helping to reduce the spread of infectious diseases.

Support World Tuberculosis Day

Support World Tuberculosis Day this year and make a difference in the lives of children impacted by the disease. 

We believe all children should have the right to adequate healthcare. By spreading awareness, educating yourself or making a donation, you will be helping to combat this disease by improving access to healthcare to reduce the impact TB has on children in developing countries.